Tyndall's on the trail

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With just seven scholarship players on Tennessee's tentative 2014-15 basketball roster, Vol fans are wondering "Who is new coach Donnie Tyndall recruiting to fill the holes?" A better question might be: Who isn't he recruiting?

Between post-graduate transfers, junior college transfers and a few high schoolers, the Vols' head man seems to be linked with just about every unsigned prospect in America these days.

Tyndall said on Friday's Erik Ainge radio show that he is looking at "a couple of fifth-year transfer-type guys that could come in and plug a hole for a year." One of these is believed to be 6-foot-3 shooting guard Jalen Steele, a former Knoxville Fulton High standout who projects to graduate from Mississippi State in June with one year of collegiate eligibility remaining after missing the 2013-14 season due to a torn ACL.

Steele was the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer as a junior in 2012-13, averaging 10.1 points per game. He played in just 18 games due to a fractured wrist, a three-game disciplinary suspension and the ACL tear. Still, he flashed his potential in a Jan. 12, 2013 win at Georgia, producing 21 points and 7 rebounds in an MSU win. Steele is a good 3-point shooter who hit 39.3 percent (70 of 178) from beyond the arc in 2011-12 and 32.9 percent (28 of 85) in 2012-13. He is almost automatic from the foul line, sinking 91.4 percent (31 of 35) as a sophomore and 92.3 percent (36 of 39) as a junior.

Despite announced plans to attend Middle Tennessee in 2014-15, Steele probably can be swayed to play his senior season in his hometown of Knoxville. As a post-graduate transfer he would be eligible immediately.

Another fifth-year senior who could be relocating to Knoxville is Ian Chiles, a 6-foot-1 guard from IUPUI. He averaged 15.8 points per game for the Jaguars in 2013-14, shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from 3. He reportedly has visited Auburn and also is considering Tennessee, Maryland, South Florida and Western Kentucky.

Now for the high school prospects …

Tariq Owens, a Scout four-star power forward out of Mt. Zion Prep in Laurel, Md., recently secured a release from the scholarship he signed with Ohio University last November. Owens was not happy when head coach Jim Christian bolted for Boston College. Tyndall is reportedly in hot pursuit of the 6-foot-9, 185-pound Owens, along with Georgetown, Miami and Virginia Commonwealth.

Elijah Minnie has been flying under the radar due to scholastic problems. The 6-foot-8, 211-pounder from Lincoln Park High in Midland, Pa., missed his entire freshman season and part of his junior season due to academic issues. He still averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks as a junior, then led Lincoln Park to the Class A title as a senior, producing 24 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks in the title game. He reportedly has scholarship offers from Virginia Tech, Temple, St. Joseph, Duquesne, Rhode Island and Robert Morris. Tennessee's staff supposedly is planning to visit him soon.

Another high school senior being linked with Tennessee is Cameron Johnson, a 6-foot-7 wing from Our Lady of Sacred Heart in Coraopolis, Pa. He committed to Pitt, his dad's alma mater, on April 21 and reportedly signed the same day. The Panthers have five newcomers and only four roster spots, however, so he could be reconsidering. Johnson grew from 6-feet-2 to 6-feet-7 between the start of his junior year and the end of his senior year, yet he adapted well enough to average 27.8 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists last winter. He supposedly has offers from UMass, Rice and Wofford, plus interest from Tennessee, Kansas State, Dayton and Memphis.

JaQuel Richmond, a 6-foot point guard from Wesleyan Christian in High Point, N.C., got a release Wednesday from the scholarship he signed last November with the University of Houston. Once rated the No. 51 prospect in America by Scout.com, Richmond subsequently slipped from four-star to three-star status. Tennessee was among the teams recruiting him hardest until Cuonzo Martin got a commitment from Larry Austin of Springfield, Ill. Now that Martin and Austin are no longer affiliated with the Vols, Richmond could resurface on the Vol radar.

One high school player who may have earned a look from the Vols is now off the table. Jackie Davis, a 6-foot-2 point guard prospect from Rolling Hills Prep in San Pedro, Calif., committed Saturday to Washington State. He averaged 23 points per game as a Rolling Hills senior last winter.

With Tennessee's roster clearly in need of a quick fix, Tyndall conceded in the Ainge interview that there are "a couple of really good junior-college players available that we're involved with that I think could impact our team."

One of these appears to be Jordan Goodman, a 6-foot-9, 200-pounder from Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He averaged 18.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in leading his team to a No. 4 national ranking in 2013-14. He played just 24.9 minutes per contest, meaning his scoring average would project to 30.2 points over the course of a 40-minute game. Goodman launched 220 shots from behind the arc this season, making 32.3 percent (71). He still managed to average 2.2 assists per game. By comparison, Antonio Barton averaged 2.0 as Tennessee's starting point guard in 2013-14.

Goodman helped Harcum produce 96.1 points per contest en route to a 32-5 record and a berth in the NJCAA Final Four. He reportedly is being pursued by Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Auburn.

The Vols also are believed to be a possible landing spot for several players mentioned in previous posts on this site: 6-foot-7, 195-pound Willie Carmichael (Wekiva High in Apopka, Fla.), 6-foot-10 Octavius Ellis (Trinity Valley Community College in Missouri), 6-foot-10, 220-pound Edson Avila (Seward County Community College in Kansas), 6-foot-3 point guard Rasham Suarez (College of Central Florida) and 6-foot-9 Arkeem Joseph (Monroe College in Brooklyn).

Carmichael, Avila and Suarez signed with Tyndall's Southern Miss program last November and may elect to follow him to Tennessee. Ellis and Joseph were being recruited by Tyndall while he was still coaching the Golden Eagles.

It appears that only one member of Tennessee's November signing class remains salvageable. Phil Cofer, 6-foot-8 power forward from Whitewater High in Fayetteville, Ga., reportedly still considers the Big Orange a possibility. Conversely, the Vols seemingly have little chance at re-signing 6-foot-1 point guard Larry Austin (Springfield, Ill.), 6-foot-6 small forward Jordan Cornish (New Orleans) and 6-foot-8 C.J. Turman (Madison, Ga.). Turman, who reportedly has refused to meet with Tyndall, could wind up at Florida Atlantic, which recently filled a staff vacancy by hiring Turman's high school coach, Charlemagne Gibbons.


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